Is the National Population and Talent Division trying to insult our intelligence?

July 27, 2012

The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) is currently seeking public feedback on Singapore’s population challenges.

However how the NPTD is going about the business of seeking public feedback is rather baffling – as it seems, this board has already decided what must be done to keep Singapore competitive – the board strongly recommends sticking to the controversial policy of ramping up the population.

From whatever little I am able to make out from his group of confused academics and bureaucrats. They have obviously concluded the controversial policy of ramping up the population is here to stay for good. 

In their words 

“….fewer working people to support every elderly person; a less vibrant, less innovative economy; and eventually, a hollowing out of the population as young people leave for more exciting cities”

But let us interrogate further each one of the assumptions raised by the NPTD to justify the policy of sticking to ramping up the population.

(1) FEWER WORKING PEOPLE TO SUPPORT EVERY ELDERLY PERSON

Firstly, has enough been done by government to encourage Singaporeans and residents to have more babies? 

This would seem to be the common sense place to start, if there is going to be fewer working people to support every elderly person.

For some curious reason, the NPTD doesn’t seem very interested to discuss strategies to augment our abysmal baby birth rates. Instead they conveniently elide this whole issue, never mentioning it even once and instead jump directly to the assumption of least mental resistance i.e the only way to solve this problem is by ramping up the population.

I wonder why? Does the NPTD feel that the government has done everything possible to reverse our abysmal birthrates that it’s simply futile to continue doing more? 

Neither does the NPTD seem very interested to interrogate the whole idea of why MOREand not LESS people are needed these days to support the elderly – might this have something to do with how salaries for median income jobs are all either stagnating and in some cases regressing due to the PAP’s happy go lucky policy of encouraging foreign workers to proliferate like weeds in certain job markets. Thus ALWAYS creating more supply than demand for firms. Hence depressing salaries and in certain cases rendering these jobs economically unattractive to most Singaporeans. And since only foreigners are willing to take up these jobs. As time goes by, Singaporeans earn less. Hence MORE people are needed to support the elderly. When in reality, had the labor market being intelligently managed, LESS people would be required to support the elderly. As they wouldn’t have to watch helplessly as their month pay packet get smaller and smaller due to voracious competition from foreigners for jobs.

(2) A LESS VIBRANT, LESS INNOVATIVE ECONOMY.

While palpably true there is certainly a preponderant correlation between innovation and skills at the upper end of the job market. 

What has this got to do with encouraging immigration for median and lower income jobs? How might the whole idea of a more vibrant and innovative society be had by filling the ranks of bus drivers from China? Or getting more Indian IT engineers to work in Singapore thus depressing salaries in the IT market. Or streaming more Filipino’s into service industries in Singapore?

I really don’t understand the NPTD’s kooky logic.

How does simply bringing in more people into Singapore improve innovation? Do you see Dubai building particle accelerators or blasting Arab astronauts to Mars? As if we were to buy into NPTD’s inverted logic – then countries like Dubai that has one of the highest rates of immigrant workers should be sending their citizens to Stockholm regularly to collect Nobel Prizes. Conversely “xenophobic” countries such as Sweden where it’s population recently voted against laissez faire immigration by saying NO! to their own government should be going back to the stone age – but anecdotal evidence suggest this simplistic formula by NPTD falls flat on its face. As Sweden today enjoys the highest patent per capita of any country in the Western hemisphere despite closing its doors to foreign workers.

What I find baffling about the NPTD is how they don’t seem very interested to interrogate deeper into the underlying reasons why Singapore can’t seem to find the verve and imagination to be more innovative – might it have something to do with how so much power is vested in the death grip of juggernauts such as Temasek Holdings that seem to have it’s hand in every cookie jar thus stifling innovation and the entrepenuerial spirit? 

Might the real solution to build a more innovative economy have something to do with how government decides to implement policies and strategies relating to how best to maximize their available resources? Instead of just blindly relying on an immigrant labor workforce to magically conjure out competitive advantage?

(3) A HOLLOWING OUT OF THE POPULATION AS MORE YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVE FOR MORE EXCITING CITIES.

If the middle class are able to turn the wheel of life gainfully in Singapore – why would they even see the need to leave Singapore to turn the wheel of life elsewhere?

Could it be one reason why Singapore seems to be experiencing an unprecedented exodus (along brain drain) especially amongst the middle class has something to do with how so many of them simply cannot turn the wheel of life in Singapore any longer – as the cost of living is prohibitively high. Even the middle class these days cannot afford to own a car any more in Singapore. And since PAP continues to insist welfare is a dirty word – there are no safety nets for citizens to fall back on during hard times. Thus this can only heighten the sense of uncertainty and sharpen the fear amongst the mobile in our society – forcing many of them of migrate elsewhere to greener pastures.

Again the NPTD seems to be disingenuous when it for forwards the inverted logic – Singaporeans will somehow be persuaded to stay on, just because the government brings in more immigrants – when in fact, it is the reverse.

SUMMARY:

If the NPTD is sincere about holding a public debate on this contentious issue of immigration in Singapore – perhaps they should refrain from treating these three assumptions as a fait accompli – after all what room for debate is there (if any) when they seem to have already made up their minds on what is already the root cause of problem and how best to prescribe a cure for this problem?

I don’t understand. Really I don’t.

Darkness 2012

——————————————————-

“Life is not so simple, where you pull me by the nose and I just buy lock, stock and barrel into your shopping list of assumptions. That is not how intelligent go about the business of beaconing out the murk. What do you take me for? Do I happen to look like a bloody fool to you? 

First I am going to ask – are your assumptions water tight? If the whole Atlantic is going through your assumptions and coming out the other side – then I will just ask you go back to the drawing board and come out with a list of new assumptions. Only then do we begin to debate the issues at hand.

As it is, at best it is a shoddy list of assumptions that has as many holes as a block of cheese. At worst, the NPTD is simply disingenuous.

So I don’t see any point why we should even engage in this public feedback exercise – if we do so, then by default, it simply means, we the internet accept these assumptions as fait. 

Is this what you all want? If this is what you want, then go ahead!
There lies the real danger my friends. We have to be wise about this. I am so sorry. I am not trying to be subversive. I am not even trying to be malicious here. I just don’t see the bloody point of wasting time debating this, when it is very clear to me, these people have not even bothered to think this through professionally. Instead, they seem to delight in causing pain to thinking folk.”

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